By Jutta Wolf | IDN-InDepth NewsReport
BREMERHAVEN, GERMANY (IDN) – A special meeting of the 25 Members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) concluded in Bremerhaven, Germany, on July 16, 2013 without achieving any agreement.
The reason, according to the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), was the Russian delegation’s blocking of proposals for the two largest ocean sanctuaries in the world in pristine Antarctic waters. Subsequently, “an extraordinary opportunity to protect the global marine environment for future generations” had been lost, AOA’s Steve Campbell said.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance is a coalition of high-profile individuals such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio, actor and UN Biodiversity Ambassador Edward Norton, Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson as well as 30 leading environmental groups.
The groups include The Pew Charitable Trusts, Greenpeace, WWF, Humane Society International, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), the Blue Marine Foundation (UK), Mission Blue (US), Oceans 5 (US), Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), Deepwave (Germany), The Last Ocean, the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), Greenovation Hub (China), Forest & Bird (NZ), ECO (NZ), and associate partners the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Oceana, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Ocean Planet (Australia).
The AOA said that all of the CCAMLR Member states, including those that had concerns about the two proposals, took part in negotiations that could have achieved a result at the CCAMLR meeting. However, the Russian delegation, with support from the Ukraine, raised legal issues as to whether CCAMLR has the authority to establish marine protected areas (MPAs).
CCAMLR established its first high-seas MPA in 2009 around the South Orkney Islands in the Southern Ocean, about 604 kilometres (375 miles) north-east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The islands have been part of the British Antarctic Territory since 1962 (previously they were a Falkland Islands Dependency), and the British Antarctic Survey operates a base on Signy Island.
The islands are also claimed by Argentina as part of the province of Tierra del Fuego, and the Argentine Navy has maintained a permanent base on Laurie Island since 1904. Apart from base personnel, there are no inhabitants. Under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, the Islands’ sovereignty is neither recognized nor disputed by the signatories and they are open to any signatory for non-military use.
“After two years of preparation, including this meeting, which Russia requested to settle the scientific case for the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals, we leave with nothing,” said Campbell, Director of the AOA from the Bremerhaven meeting. “All Members, except Russia, came to this meeting to negotiate in good faith.”
“The actions of the Russian delegation have stalled progress on protecting the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, and have put international cooperation and goodwill at risk, two key ingredients needed for global marine conservation,” said Andrea Kavanagh at The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“It is imperative that countries send their representatives back to the table in Hobart (in the Australian island state of Tasmania) three months from now to find consensus to protect marine life in Antarctic waters and safeguard some of the most pristine ocean areas on Earth,” Kavanagh added.
The two proposals CCAMLR failed to pass were a joint US-New Zealand proposal to designate a Ross Sea MPA of 2.3 million square kilometres, including a “fully protected” area of 1.6 million square kilometres; and a proposal from Australia, France and the European Union that would designate a cluster of seven marine protected areas in East Antarctica, covering about 1.63 million square kilometres.
“ASOC salutes those CCAMLR Members that tried so hard to find common ground to establish these Antarctic MPAs,” said Jim Barnes, Executive Director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC). “But we are distraught that one county is blocking CCAMLR from meeting its MPA commitments and to see such bad faith here in Bremerhaven. We look forward to Russia finding constructive ways to participate in establishing MPAs at the next meeting this October,” he added.
More than 1.3 million people around the world have joined the global call for Antarctic marine protection with thousands taking action through online petitions and emails from around the world.
“All of the world’s oceans – including those around Antarctica – are under increasing pressure that makes the protection of near pristine areas such as the Ross Sea and East Antarctica ever more urgent,” said Richard Page, Greenpeace Oceans campaigner. “Considerable effort and some rigorous scientific work have been put in by many CCAMLR Members to get this far. The Russian delegation must now work in good faith and make sure the proposals go forward at the next CCAMLR meeting to ensure a lasting legacy for future generations,” Page added.
The Southern Ocean is critical for scientific research, both for studying how intact marine ecosystems function and for determining the impacts of global climate change.
“I am incredibly disappointed that CCAMLR missed this opportunity to protect the home of more than 10,000 species including seabirds, whales and most of the world’s penguins,” said Bob Zuur, Manager, WWF Antarctic and Southern Ocean Initiative. “Antarctica’s ocean is one of the most vulnerable on Earth. We urge CCAMLR to create these critical protected areas at its next meeting in October,” Zuur added.
Unflinching in their commitment to ‘Protecting Antarctica’s Oceans’, the Antarctic Ocean Alliance partners will attend the next CCAMLR meeting in Hobart, in October 2013 to press CCAMLR to deliver on its conservation commitments and to extend Southern Ocean protection to these and other important habitats, the AOA said.
The Alliance has identified over 40% of the Southern Ocean in 19 habitats that warrant protection in a network of large-scale MPAs and no-take marine reserves based on combining existing marine protected areas, areas identified within previous conservation and planning analyses and including additional key environmental habitats. [IDN-InDepthNews – July 16, 2013]
Image credit: antarcticocean.org